The British ‘Bank Holiday’ is a mystery to many non-Brits.
Essentially they’re public holidays, and traditionally banks and most retailers would close for the day. These days most large retailers open, albeit with shorter ‘Sunday opening’ hours, and even some of the newer banks.
Brits take the opportunity on Bank Holidays to visit DIY stores, shopping malls or site in traffic jams to seaside resorts and tourist destinations.
Confusingly there are some regional differences, Scotland has different bank holidays to England, but in general these are the Bank Holidays:
New Year’s Day – January 1st, or the first working day after January 1st if it falls at the weekend. In Scotland they also take January 2nd as a public holiday.
Good Friday – the Friday before Easter. Easter is a ‘moveable feast’, celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the vernal (or spring) equinox – March 21st.
In simple terms, Easter always falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 and Good Friday the Friday before.
Easter Monday – the day after Easter Sunday
May Day – the first Monday (on or) after May 1st. This holiday was introduced by in 1978 to reflect International Worker’s Day, but there have been many traditions associated with May Day, including dancing around a maypole on the village green.
Spring Bank Holiday – this used to represent the Christian festival of Whitsun – and was another moveable feast – but these days always falls on the last Monday in May.
August Bank Holiday – the last Monday in August.
Christmas Day – December 25th or the first working day after December 25th is it falls on a weekend.
Boxing Day – December 26th or the first working day after December 26th is it falls on a weekend. There is some confusion as to the origin of ‘Boxing Day’ but the accepted version is that it was the day when tradespeople would received gifts (or ‘boxes’) from their customers.
There have been discussions about introducing additional Bank Holidays, St George’s Day (April 23rd), Trafalgar Day (October 21st – to commemorate Britain’s victory over the French and Spanish fleets in 1805), and in the 2017 General Election campaign the Labour party – led by Jeremy Corbyn – proposed making all British saints days into Bank Holidays.